The human body is a compilation of several different systems. The nervous, limbic, musculoskeletal and digestive systems, to name a few, come together to create one of the most complex bodies of potential energy on the face of the earth. Along with its functional systems, the human body can be deconstructed to reveal a system of fundamental measurements called Anthropometry.
The word Anthropometry is made of two distinct nouns which are the words human and measurement. The word forensic refers to the application of certain scientific principles in the investigation of a crime. Combining the field of forensic investigation and Anthropometry is important to our society for the simple fact that it leads us to an objective conclusion based on common core measurements of the human body.
The purpose of forensic Anthropometry is chiefly to assist the criminal investigative and legal community with things like identification, race determination and ancestry. Initially, when dealing with a badly decomposed human body, it can become the springboard for a lengthy investigation. Of course the actual assignment of a crime is not usually done by this process, but it is often the beginning of what could have been an almost impossible case sans the anthropometric component.
During the eighteenth century, the scientific community focused greatly on the differences in human beings due to the exploration and settlement of foreign lands. A great deal of the studies were done by the European countries where the bulk of science, art and cultural development took place. Within this arena of scientific study, there arose a Frenchman named Alphonse Bertillon.
He developed and made famous the system of Bertillonage. It is based it on the idea that there are several fundamental bone structures in the human body that remain constant. Similar to the idea of a fingerprint being proprietary to an individual, his system would assign a grouping of distinct measurements to each and every offender which included height, bust, stretch, head length, left foot, right ear, cheek width, middle finger and the cubit (from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger).
Bertillonage was adopted in many of the European justice systems, but eventually found to be riddled with difficulties by the late 1800s. It was eventually superseded by the gathering and use of other information that was more dependable largely based on fingerprints and genetics.
Arriving at a conclusion for the deceased as to their nationality, race and ancestry is paramount. This findings of facts alone can tip off the investigation into a missing persons or the reopening of a very cold case. The forensics involve the use of the commonly studied anthropological traits of each and every ethnic group.
These characteristics are considered only in reference to frequency within each ethnic group and not as an exact rule. For instance, it is generally accepted that people of European dissent, have narrow faces. This does not mean that a decedent with a narrow face could not be of some other ethnic or ancestral origin. Forensic Anthropometry is an excellent tool for justice systems to utilize in conjunction with other forensic sciences and will continue to aid our criminal justice systems in finding the truth.